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Conor Oberst | Portland Japanese Garden Reopens | YA Stars Laini Taylor And Sunshine Girl | Blitzen Trapper's Rock Opera


Spring Break is upon us, and we are embarking on an adventure. We will be slaying beasts in the fantastical world of novelist Laini Taylor (that have surprising real world parallels), exploring the haunted house of YouTube superstar Sunshine Girl, traveling to SXSW to discover infectious new bands, and trekking to the grand opening of the Portland Japanese Garden.


The Cultural Village is home to two new gardens: the tiny Tsubo-Niwa, which means courtyard garden (pictured), and a bonsai terrace.

The Cultural Village is home to two new gardens: the tiny Tsubo-Niwa, which means courtyard garden (pictured), and a bonsai terrace.

Laurie Isola/OPB

The Portland Japanese Garden Unveils World-Class Expansion

The Portland Japanese Garden was already considered one of the best in the world, but now it stands to become a cultural institution on a whole other level. After undergoing more than seven years of planning and months of construction, the garden is opening its new expansion and Cultural Village on April 2.

Want a sneak peak? Check out our slide show. For a deeper dive, take our tour with world renowned architect Kengo Kuma, get a primer on how to raise $33.5 million dollars from campaign chair Dorie Vollum, and check out “Think Out Loud’s” interview with garden CEO Steve Bloom.


Dancer Danielle Tolmie rehearses for Eugene Ballet's "The Snow Queen" at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts

Dancer Danielle Tolmie rehearses for Eugene Ballet’s “The Snow Queen” at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts

April Baer/OPB

The Eugene Ballet And Composer Kenji Bunch Find Beauty In The Snow Queen

On April 8–9, the Eugene Ballet Company will premieres a work years in the making: a new adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” with a modern score by Portland-based composer Kenji Bunch. You might recognize the tale: It was the inspiration for Disney’s “Frozen,” and Bunch gives it a cinematic treatment.


With a personal library like this, it's not hard to imagine author Laini Taylor would write a book about a young, book-loving librarian. The foreign-language translations of Taylor's books alone take up a full corner.

With a personal library like this, it’s not hard to imagine author Laini Taylor would write a book about a young, book-loving librarian. The foreign-language translations of Taylor’s books alone take up a full corner.

Aaron Scott/OPB

Slaying Demons (And Cliches) With Best-Selling YA Author Laini Taylor

Portland author Laini Taylor dreams the types of dreams that you want to get lost in — majestic desert journeys to forgotten cities, heroes with dark secrets, tender first kisses between goddesses and men — and you’re not alone. Her early collaboration with her husband, the illustrator Jim Di Bartolo, “Lips Touch,” was a finalist for the National Book Award, and her “Daughter of Smoke and Bone” trilogy is an international best-seller.

This week, she released the first book in her newest series, “Strange the Dreamer,” about an orphaned young librarian who also has big dreams. She’ll talk about it with Sara Grundell of the YA website Novel Novice at Powell’s at Cedar Hills Crossing on April 6.  

Want more? Here’s our extended interview.


Paige McKenzie as Sunshine Girl in her film "THR33 - A Haunted House."

Paige McKenzie as Sunshine Girl in her film “THR33 - A Haunted House.”

YouTube

Oregon’s Biggest YouTube Sensation Is A Girl, Her Mom, And A Household Of Ghosts

In 2010, Oregon actor Paige McKenzie anonymously released a series of videos on YouTube called “The Haunting of Sunshine Girl.” They were DIY, Blair Witch-style episodes following a charismatic 16-year-old who wanted to prove the existence of ghosts to her mom. With no promotion whatsoever, the series blew up and now has had more than 280 million views, making Sunshine Girl one of the most successful YouTube stars in the country.

Since then, McKenzie inked a deal with the Weinstein Company for three books and a TV show. The first two books have sold more than 200,000 copies, and the third, “The Sacrifice of Sunshine Girl,” comes out Apr. 4. She will read and sign at Powell’s at Cedar Hills Crossing on April 5 and Voodoo Donuts Too on Apr. 13. Also, listen for her on “Think Out Loud” this Wednesday.


And The March Sadness Winner Is…

March is over, and we are ready to announce the first ever winner of our March Sadness championship to find the darkest, gloomiest, weepiest of tunes to make this endless winter OK. Going into the final bracket, we have the Pogues “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda” going toe-to-tapping-toe with Johnny Cash’s rendition of “Hurt.”

And the winner is: Johnny Cash! Covering Nine Inch Nails’ ode to addiction.


Eric Earley turns his songwriting with the band Blitzen Trapper into a dystopian tale of love, loss and addiction (and karaoke!).

Eric Earley turns his songwriting with the band Blitzen Trapper into a dystopian tale of love, loss and addiction (and karaoke!).

Photo by Patrick Weishampel/blankeye.tv

Blitzen Trapper Spins Their Narrative Rock Into A Sci-Fi Rock Opera

Blitzen Trapper is one of the tightest rock bands in Portland, and now the members have partnered with Portland Center Stage to transform their story-rich songs into an evening-length musical event. Called “Wild and Reckless,” they’re billing it as a “futuristic vision of Portland’s past.” As part of our What Are You Looking At series, we went to opening night and discovered a production overflowing with expert musicianship but coming up short on plot.

“Wild and Reckless” runs through April 30 at the Armory.


Conor Oberst at Arlyn Studios

Conor Oberst at Arlyn Studios

Mike Baden/opbmusic

opbmusic’s SXSW Recap: Bands We Can’t Get Out Of Our Heads & An Exclusive Session With Conor Oberst

The opbmusic staff saw some 150 bands in four days at Austin’s monster music festival, South by Southwest. Music director Jerad Walker stops by to share some of his favorites, including A Giant Dog, Jay Som and Portland folkster Johanna Warren.

In a lucky turn of events, they were able to sit down with indie royalty Conor Oberst from the folk band Bright Eyes. Oberst spoke with Walker about the process for his new album “Salutations” and his work with supergroup Monsters of Folk. 

Hear their interview and watch videos of his SXSW performance.

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